A former employee of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has accused her then-manager of trying to rape her on a business trip last year as she pushes police to review charges in a case that has cast a rare spotlight on workplace harassment in the country.
The employee, a woman identified only by her last name Zhou, alleged in a lengthy account posted online this week that there were inconsistencies in a police statement about the case that she says led to online victim blaming against her. That came a week after a second man in the case was sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexual assault.
The high-profile case kicked off a national discussion last year over workplace sexual harassment and highlighted the struggle and backlash that victims face when coming forward with allegations.
The former Alibaba employee accused her former manager of attempting to rape her while she was drunk and at times unconscious.
Alibaba has fired both Zhou and the manager, who has been identified in police statements only by his last name, Wang. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Zhou criticised the official police account for turning her manager from “someone who objectively has criminal intention, a rapist with actual criminal intentions, into a good boss caring for his drunk female subordinate.” “And as for me?…I have become a slut who is falsely accusing the male boss that she was carrying on with,” she continued.
Zhou’s online post said Wang had asked another Alibaba employee who was his deputy to talk with her after she reported him to the police. The employee offered her 600,000 yuan ($90,000) to settle the matter privately, the post said.
Wang did not respond to a request for comment made via the company or his wife, who has emerged as his spokesperson, posting many statements online in her husband’s defense.
Police investigated two men in the case. Wang was detained for 15 days, but prosecutors did not approve an arrest on formal charges, saying the actions did not constitute a crime.
Zhou and her lawyers asked police to review the case last year and charge Wang with rape but have yet to get a response.
A court convicted the other man, Zhang Guo, a representative of a supermarket chain that was in talks with Alibaba, of forcible indecency, saying he had molested Zhou twice — once while she was drunk at a dinner and the next day in her hotel room.
Zhou has appealed his 18-month sentence, seeking a longer one, her lawyer Du Peng said.
In her post, Zhou raised questions about the police account of what happened that night.
She wrote that her former manager had stolen her ID card to get the hotel to make him a key for her room, asking the staff to list him as a fellow traveller. She also said that police had concluded she could not express herself clearly when the front desk called to get her consent for giving him a key.
“He voluntarily cancelled his taxi on the app, carried my stolen ID card, went back to the hotel and added himself to my room, sexually violated me,” she told the AP, elaborating on her post. “All these things show that not only did he intentionally try to rape, but also he committed a criminal act.” A police statement last August said that Wang had the key made with Zhou’s consent and that he had her ID card, without saying how he had gotten it.
Police in Jinan city, where the assault took place, did not respond to a request for comment.
The wives of both accused men have taken to the internet to deny Zhou’s accusations. They have insisted that Zhou seduced their husbands.
Wang’s wife, after the sentencing of Zhang, wrote that “this entire thing was all voluntary on Zhou’s part, self-directed and self acted, a small essay full of lies to frame and harm Zhang and Wang.” While many online commentators have supported Zhou and applauded her courage in speaking up, others used the wives’ denials to label Zhou as sexually promiscuous.
Zhou has written of how abandoned she felt after the company initially apologized but later fired her.
She said she developed a mood disorder after going public, and that both she and her husband attempted suicide. Police kept them for a month in a hotel afterward, to make sure they didn’t try again, she said. They also told her not to give media interviews.
“I hope I can get a fair result, one where the victim isn’t in despair at the justice system,” she said.